What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984

Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015), Pentatonix (2016)

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Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Jun 27th 2017 report

    The beginning talks of David and his chords that play hallelujah. Then came the betrayal of Sampson by Delilah and God by David with Bethsheeba. I think it speaks of the point that love betrays and not every hallelujah comes from a happy and joyful heart, but it can also come from a place of hurt and betrayal


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Dec 3rd 2014 report

    I think this is definitely about a relationship he was in and its stages. References to God and the bible just parts of his comparisons to what he has been thru from the beginning of the relationship to the end. The indication to me is most relationships run this course over time. I can relate to the stages he describes in each verse. The stages are not in order, he just describes each one as he feels or remembers them. From the beginning where you have the euphoric love relationship to the when the love ends, and his best protection is to be the one to end it first (shoot first), that way you don't get hurt as much. But his love of music (maybe writing it) will always be what gets him through it, and he doesn't understand how others could not relate to that. The reference to God above is just whether God controls our destiny or not in these affairs, he doesn't know. The different hallelujah's are the example of how you feel in each stage of the relationship. It's quite simple.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Mar 27th 2010 report

    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.

  4. lyric8al
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    Nov 2nd report

    I think the interpretation is quite simple. Leonard Cohen is writing about a relationship he had and uses biblical references to express the ideas which come from Jewish philosophy that God provides all the experiences - both good and bad in our lives, for our ultimate benefit; and that we should praise God for the good as well as the bad.

  5. propps
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    Jan 30th 2021 report

    Leonard Cohen was interest in esotericism and mysticism or in a different word spirituality.

    This song is about self realisation, peak experience, spiritual awakening whatever you like to call it.

    The king is the ego, thinking creates almost every suffering in our life. So the first part when he say the minor fall and the major lift is the falling away of the ego and realising what you are awareness or a soul.

    In esotericism there is a part that is divine feminine, simply said if the masculine is action the feminine is being. The symbol for the feminine is a moon that can you see as a death and rebirth.
    So the second part explains what a realisation can do with you, the ego is not anymore on the driving seat but something different and more powerful.

    The third part explains that everything feels so natural if you have these type of experience because it's what you are without all the layers of ego and all your defences and idenity. Love is not a victory march is about that you can't get to that point by doing something or action that the love we seek outside ourself is not a true love. And that love that we know of is a part of the ego and a selfish love, so what can i get out of a relationship for example there is a part that needs something.

    The fourth part explains the experience of oneness or the mystical experience, the dove is a symbol for the soul. I think it was Rumi who said in nice words your realise that you are not a drop in the ocean but the ocean in a drop so that means i move in you, Jesus said also i am the father and the son.

    The fifth it that we never really accept life as it is and when things comes close or hurt we push it away.

  6. anonymous
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    Nov 30th 2020 report

    For me, the verses were clearly & unquestionably written from the perspective of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite, one of the elite soldiers of the Hebrew King. The Old Testament texts firmly indicate that the husband was not aware of the affair, but Cohen assumably wrote his verses that Uriah knew “what’s really going on below.” So based on his creative freedom, Uriah was a broken & betrayed lover, husband & soldier. Perhaps Cohen was projecting his own love life at the time.

    Once you see the dynamics, EVERYTHING will begin to make sense including the flag on the arch. It was a "victory flag" raised by a soldier's wife hoping for her husband's safe return, or welcome sign from a victorious war. But for Uriah, the flag no longer represented a victory in his eyes. It became a sign of defeat & betrayal. Looking back or forward at the flag from a distance, he sings achingly "Love is not a victory march. It's a cold and a broken Hallelujah.”

    BTW, who the heck brought Samson into this? Nonsense!! Cutting hair is a symbolic gesture by a strong woman who emasculated a powerful King in her domain, kitchen!! Meaning she was now in control!! She even sat on him “and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!” Oh, you are so slow. In other lines, Uriah "moved in you (Bathsheba)" & “The Holy dark/dove (King's dove. Wink!) was moving too (in Bathsheba.)”

    Why was David a baffled King? Because he was still allowed to remain as a King & a Prophet in spite of all the transgressions & sins he had committed (adultery, murder, cover-up, etc). He knew he blew it becuase he was THE judge in the house of Israel. Not only that, young David was just a humble sheep herder & a harp player who eventually became one of the most powerful Hebrew Kings in the Jewish/Biblical history!! Buffled? Anyone would be.

    The King’s “faith was strong but” he still “needed proof (of God)” even after all the miraculous blessings he received. So, God indeed shows the proof that David was careless & powerless enough to risk all of his kingdom to satisfy his lust. He already had 5 wives when he “saw her on the roof.” OMG!! He was given a sign in the form of a test that God’s Power & Wisdom were far greater than himself.

    Back to Uriah. He was a Hittite, that means he was not a born Jew. So he was probably a convert to Judaism to satisfy his wife, as well as the requirement to join the powerful Hebrew army. In one of the less known verses, Uriah says “You say I took the name (of God) in vain (by converting). I don't even know the name (Jews typically avoid mentioning God’s name.) But if I did, well really, what's it to ya?”

    Unlike David, Uriah’s faith was not strong, so he (or Cohen) sings “Maybe there’s a God above.” And the lesson he “learned from love” was “how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.” David obviously outdrew him. A bitter lesson learned from his love triangle.

    “It’s not a cry (Uriah’s) you can hear at night.” Or cry of “somebody (David) who’s seen the light (God’s grace.)” Cohen says it doesn’t matter whose hallelujah it is. Hallelujah drew from the broken love “is a cold” and “a broken Hallelujah." In fact, one of the verses he says “It doesn't matter which you heard. The holy or the broken Hallelujah.”

    Once you listen from the right perspective, things become very clear. BUT this is just my opinion. Take the best & leave the rest.

    Based on Rufus Wainright’s lyrics - The same as Shrek version.
    Also refer to genius.com lyrics for a few less known verses.

  7. anonymous
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    May 21st 2020 report

    This in no way is a song that praises god, its in a way poking fun at religion by using the word "Halleluja"meaning good and bad. I do not like how the lyrics were changed but these lyrics scream domestic abuse: "She tied you to the kitchen chair she broke your throne and she cut your hair"...she took control of this man's life via mental or physical abuse and then in so many words made him fake it was good by forcing him to exclaim Halleluja "from your lips she drew the hallelujah". She clearly is claiming victory of this fake relationship, fake religion, whatever and he sees it and says "and love is not a victory march its a cold and its a broken hallelujah" and for whatever reason, he stays with her, he is "not somebody who's seen the light" he is suffering but "its not a cry you hear at night". All he's learned is how to sidestep her controlling behavior as he mentions in "all ive ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya" which means you never win.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
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    May 9th 2020 report

    My own take on the interpretation of the lyrics is “reconcile the irreconcilable”, as love and life are supposed to be good and even perfect, but in reality they are surely anything but that. However, that must have have been God’s will, not ours. So all we can do is to praise the Lord, even though we don’t know why it happened the way it did.

  9. anonymous
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    Mar 15th 2020 report

    Having read the various interpretations above, it is clear that whatever was originally meant by Leonard Cohen doesn't much matter, except to him. Like most music, what the melody, chords and lyrics mean that is most important, is how the individual interprets it. Even if Cohen was to reveal what he meant when he wrote it, would that make the song more meaningful, or less so? More than likely, it would re-enforce some people's views, while others might be disappointed, or simply ignore it and continue to interpret the words as they relate to their own experience. Isn't that what music is after all?

  10. anonymous
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    Dec 22nd 2019 report

    Clearly, the interpretation is personal. When I watch K.D. Lang perform it, I can feel all the angst she has known in her life, and also feel that there can never be a full recovery from deep pain. The religious references bring us back to our basic existence, suggesting that nothing we experience is new.

  11. anonymous
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    May 3rd 2019 report

    ive told the truth.. i didnt
    come to fool you .. to me its my prayer and promise to god

  12. anonymous
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    Dec 20th 2018 report

    Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, the real meaning is seen at wikipedia. For the latest comment, that's great, you were able to watch the special tonight and heard both of their voices and have a better understanding.

    - Same person who made comments recently

  13. anonymous
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    Dec 19th 2018 report

    I love it...Never knew all the lyrics, but after watching the special tonight and hearing both Leonard Cohen and K.D. Lang perform it feel I have a better understanding...It related to David/Bathsheba and Samson/Delilah...And life, love and Cohen’s own relationships...”Hallelujah”

  14. anonymous
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    Dec 18th 2018 report

    Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen is a very deep but at the same time clear lyrics. The latest comment clearly explained the interpretation of this lyrics.

    -The person who made comments on songs recently

  15. anonymous
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    Dec 18th 2018 report

    Its a twin flame love expressed. mad and crazy love thats inevitable.A spiritual , physical and emotional love altogether.

  16. anonymous
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    Oct 3rd 2018 report

    I love what one of you said: " That's why the night has to come before the day." So true, this song speaks to everyone. The music and lyrics are genius together and this is hands down one of the best songs ever written.

  17. anonymous
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    Jul 5th 2018 report

    I think it was about a girl he was with who did not care about music or the part when it says "she tied you to her kitchen chair she broke your throne and she cut your hair" he was in an abusive relationship or it could be both and when he says hallelujah it's because he got away from her and he was free I love the song though.

  18. anonymous
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    May 27th 2018 report

    I am in love with this song, though I think I do not interprate it like a lot of people do. Actually, my interpratation is pretty weird:

    Verse 1:
    I heard there was a secret chord
    That David played and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music do you?
    Well it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall and the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    To me, the whole thing about the chord, the Lord and the music is about the hidden side of life, like something magic that few people know.
    And then someone that knows this magic thing is trying to explain it to someone who doesn't get it, but he can't because this person is to busy to see the real beauty of life, trying to compose a hallelujah but never reaching it.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You sae her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

    In all the interpratations that I read, this verse was about sex or toxic love.
    But in my mind, and with my life, it is talking about discovering my sexual orientation.
    When he says "your faith was strong but you needed proof" it means I knew I liked girls but still I wanted a proof to feel "legit" you know.
    "You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you"
    This means to me that, on my way looking for a proof, I found the proof. I saw this girl and immediately knew I liked her.
    So we went into a relationship but I felt like a prisoner, stuck to the chair of the psychologist that was telling me to stay discrete at school.
    So then the girl broke my thown and cut my hair, wich means she made me lose all my repairs, made me feel lost.
    But anyway she made me say hallelujah, since I liked this whole new thing, like being in couple.

    Verse 3:
    Baby I've been here before
    I know this room and I've walked this floor
    I use to leave alone before I knew you
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    But love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    Okay so my interpratation of this one is so gay.
    First, the combination of "flag" "love" and "victory march" makes me obviously think about the gay pride.
    The person has been here before, has also been discovering the lgbt community, alone because he thaugh nobody was like him.
    But now he had enough of it and he doesn't want to be see as a "rainbow poney dancing at the gay pride". Now, after the magic discovering of himself, he realizes the world is so homophobic and his heart feels like a broken hallelujah.

    Verse 4:
    There was a time you let ke know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show that to me do you?
    I remember when I moved in you
    And the holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was hallelujah

    If I wrote this and had to explain, I'd say; I remember the beginning of our love relationship, everything seems great and I thought we trusted each other. But in fact every people keeps secret, and you had a LOT of secrets. Sad secrets. And you don't answer to my textes anymore. You didn't even tell me for your suicide attempt.

    Verse 5:
    Now maybe there's a God above
    As for me all I learned from love
    Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    It's no complaint you hear tonight
    It's not some pilgrim who seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a lonely hallelujah

    The person ask himself if God exists and if He sees us. He realizes all he learned in his life is how to "build yourself a wall".
    He says to the people listening to him singing that his "hallelujah" is not the "hallelujah" of someone crying to help, and not the hallelujah of the end of a long trip. It's just a cold hallelujah from a stone cold lonely heart.

    Yeah, this songs means all of that to me, and maybe you can see no rapport between the verses, but I do. And it's a 100% sure that Leonard Cohen was not thinking about that at all while writing, but it's just how I hear the song.

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